On Our Knees
What we want to do is get in
touch with Him and turn our lives over to Him. Where should
we go to do it?
At once the lad replied: "There
is only one place - on our knees."
The lad prayed - one of those
powerful, simple prayers which are so quickly heard by Him who
made the eye and the ear: "OH LORD, MANAGE ME, FOR I CANNOT
A. J. Russell, For Sinners
Only (New York; Harper & Brothers, 1932), p. 62
Valentine's Day in 1938. Clarence was feeling well enough to
receive visitors. He had, as he put it, "gotten over a lot of
my shakes, gotten them a little under control. I didn't get
over `em by a long shot."
that, beginning with that day, each day, a couple of "the men
who preceded me in Akron" came to visit, and each afternoon,
Doctor Smith checked in on him. All of these men, about fifteen
in number, who came while Clarence was in the hospital, were
in their forty's to late fifty's. Clarence was only thirty-five
at the time. These men would sit at his bed side, tell him the
sad and sordid stories of their lives, and the depths to which
alcohol had taken them. They told him of their lives as they
were living them that day, and then told him that they had the
answer to his problem. They stood up, shook his hand, and wished
him well. They all said they would pray for him. At that point,
they would turn and leave the room.
went on for almost a week. Never in Clarence's life did he have
this much attention. These were people who genuinely seemed
to care for him. They wanted nothing in return, other than his
continued success and physical well being.
these visits, each and every afternoon, he would question Doctor
Smith, who kept insisting that he just wanted to be called Doc,
about what was going on.
known to have very long and bony fingers, which - Clarence quipped
- "probably served him well in his profession." He would often
poke Clarence hard in the chest with them as he spoke to Clarence.
one of these visits Doc said to Clarence, "Young feller," [Doc
had a nick name for everyone, Clarence's happened to be young
feller.] "Young feller, you just listen." Doc said nothing further
about Clarence's questions until the last day Clarence was to
be in the hospital.
a Wednesday, and there was a definite chill in the air as Doc
sat on the edge of Clarence's bed. Clarence was still a little
wary of Doc. Still not sure whether or not he was the Mad Butcher.
Doc stood well over six feet tall; and even though he was seated,
he still presented an imposing figure.
known for his very loud neckties and argyle socks. Clarence
remembered that he also wore a stick pin which had a lion's
head on it. Clarence also remembered that this particular stick
pin had a diamond in it. A diamond of which Clarence was envious
for it spelled success.
many minutes of strained silence, Doc finally spoke. "Well young
feller, what do you think of all this by now?" Clarence replied,
"Well Doc, I think that this is wonderful. All these fellows
coming in to see me. They don't know me from a load of hay,
and they tell me the story of their lives. They tell me what
booze did to them, but I'm puzzled about something." Doc asked,
"What are you puzzled about?" Clarence replied, "Every one of
these men tells me the same thing. They tell me that they have
the answer to my drinking problem; and on that note, they leave.
They don't tell me anything. Now, I'm laying around here for
about a week, I'm ready to get out of here. What are you going
to do to me? What's next? What's the answer? What are these
fellows holding from me? What is this?"
not at all ready for the reply that Doc gave him. Doc looked
at Clarence seriously, pondering his next few words. He folded
his massive arms in his lap and said, "Well young feller, we
don't know about you. You're pretty young, and we haven't had
any luck with these young fellows. They're all screwballs."
was not about to comment that he wasn't a screwball. All of
the men who had spoken to him were much older. All seemed pretty
responsible and sane. He looked at Doc imploringly and said,
"What do I have to do to be ready? I weigh one hundred and thirty
pounds, I've been on the bum for several years, and I'm unemployable.
I have no more home than a rabbit, I have no clothes, I have
no money, and I have no prospects. I have nothing. It's the
middle of winter, and I'm in a strange town and you people say
that I'm not ready yet? What more do I have to go through? How
many more years of living hell?"
at Clarence and shook his head up and down. "Okay young feller,"
he said, "I'll give you the answer to this." Doc turned his
body on the bed to get closer to Clarence, pointed a long bony
finger at him, and asked, "Young feller, do you believe in God?
Not a God, but God!"
was ready for a medical cure. He was ready for surgery, any
kind of surgery. Even rectal. After all, he was in a hospital,
wasn't he? He was ready to sign a pledge, swear off booze, sing
for his supper, and stand on his head if need be. He was, however,
definitely not ready for God!
already been to the missions when he needed clothing or shelter.
He even sang a little bit. He had listened to all they had to
say about God. He had "agreed" with them and they gave him what
he had needed. How many times had he turned his life over to
Jesus Christ for just a pair of pants, on old and worn overcoat,
a pair of shoes? Most of these items he had sold for alcohol
anyway. He sold them when the need arose, as it always did.
himself. Louder this time and with a trace of annoyance: "Do
you believe in God?" Clarence tried as hard as he could to evade
this question, but one did not evade Doc. Especially when Doc
believed in something this strongly. Clarence asked, "Well,
what does that have to do with it?" Doc answered, "Young feller,
this has everything to do with it. Do you or do you not believe
time, Doc appeared to Clarence to be getting ready to get up
off of the bed and leave the room. Clarence was afraid that
Doc wouldn't "fix" him unless he went along with this line of
questioning. Yet there were still the vestiges of resistance.
Clarence tried to evade the question once more. He tried to
answer on a more positive, but non-committal note. He said,
"Well, I guess I do."
stood up, pointed his finger at Clarence, and yelled. "There's
no guessing about it. Either you do or you don't!" Clarence
became increasingly frightened. He thought that Doc was about
to walk out and never tell him the answer to his problem. The
answer that Doc had already given to him, but which Clarence
was unable or unwilling to hear.
Clarence replied, resigned to the fact that he really wanted
to get well and that Doc wouldn't help him unless he responded
in the affirmative. "I do believe in God," he said.
sit right back down as Clarence had expected him to do. Instead
he just stood there and stared at him. This time he really was
frightened. This time Clarence thought that he had "blown my
opportunity," as he put it, to rid himself of his drinking problem;
and he began to think that he was relegated to a life of misery
the fear and the desire must have shown all over his face because
Doc eventually said, "That's fine. Now we can get someplace."
Clarence breathed a sigh of relief. Once again, however, he
was not at all prepared for what was to happen next.
"Get down out of that bed." Clarence was shocked. He asked,
"For what?" Doc replied, "You're gonna pray." Clarence pleaded
with him, for enough was enough, "I don't know anything about
praying," Clarence said. Doc, still as stern as before and not
willing to compromise his beliefs, said, "I don't suppose that
you do; but you get down there, and I will pray. You can repeat
it after me, and that will do for this time."
took Clarence by the hand and "hauled" him off of that "nice
warm nest," as Clarence put it, and down to the cold, hard,
concrete floor. Clarence, in his shorty hospital nightshirt,
tied together in the back by a couple of strings. Doc, in a
suit with a loud colored tie, argyle socks and a diamond stick
pin with a lion's head.
a sight to behold. Both men, on their knees, by the side of
the hospital bed, in an attitude of prayer. Doc uttered some
sort of a prayer, pausing every few words so that Clarence had
the time to repeat them. Clarence didn't quite remember the
words of the prayer exactly; but he did remember its being something
like this: "Jesus! This is Clarence Snyder. He's a drunk. Clarence!
This is Jesus. Ask Him to come into your life. Ask Him to remove
your drinking problem, and pray that He manage your life because
you are unable to manage it yourself."
they had concluded this simple prayer, they rose from the side
of the bed. Doc shook Clarence's hand and said to him, "Young
feller, you're gonna be all right."
sat back down on the side of the bed. He was sweating profusely.
But he was feeling something strange. Something he had probably
never felt before in his entire life. He felt absolutely clean.
felt relieved of a great burden that had weighed heavily upon
him for what had seemed, forever. He had just prayed that prayer,
not like he had done so many times in the past. Not like he
had prayed in Sunday School, in churches and in the missions.
He had prayed this particular prayer like he really meant it
- meant every word that had come out of his mouth. He prayed
the prayer directly from the center of his heart and not from
a brain befogged from alcohol. He had prayed that way because
he had felt his very life had depended upon each and every word
that came out of his mouth.
actuality - it did!